Earlier this semester, I wrote a piece for the Paladin about the challenges that low-income students face on a college campus. For some students, it really is the choice between buying an expensive textbook required for class or buying groceries for the week.
In the piece I wrote for the Paladin I interviewed current students on how they have navigated buying textbooks for class. Here are some of the things they said:
Library Textbook Program
The library has lots of resources for student success from tutoring to research help to textbooks. With the steady rise of textbook costs, the library created a program where students can check out textbooks for short periods of time (usually an hour or two), use the book for what they need, then return it.
Choose e-books or rent whenever possible
Many students buy their textbooks directly from our on campus Barnes & Noble. Textbooks are posted on the bookstore website and you can order your books to have ready for pick up before the first day of class. Textbooks can be purchased new or used, rented new or used, and sometimes purchased or rented digitally. Renting and purchasing digitally tends to be cheaper than buying outright or physically.
If you’re worried about choosing to rent your books because you know you’ll have to give them back, know that even with renting, you’re allowed to write and highlight in the books, as well as fold the pages. Using your book as a normal textbook is not seen as damage.
A lot of it comes down to personal choice, but recently I made the switch to buying digitally because it’s about the same cost as renting, but I don’t have to worry about carrying about physical copies of my books. It’s also pretty nice because I’m able to highlight and take notes in my book digitally as well.
Price match at the Bookstore
It’s always good to check other places online (like Amazon or Chegg) before purchasing from the bookstore. The bookstore offers competitive prices, but sometimes you can find them cheaper if you look hard enough online. Luckily, if you find a competitive price elsewhere, you can show the listing to the bookstore and they will price match, meaning they will change the price of their listing to match what you would’ve paid elsewhere.
Use scholarship money in the bookstore (or charge your student account and pay for books later)
If buying your textbooks is financially infeasible at the moment, you don’t have to worry about not having a textbook for class. In the book store, you have the option of charging your student account and paying for your books later along with your tuition or housing fees for the semester. If you have leftover money from scholarships in your student account, this is a good way to make sure that money is covering school related expenditures.
Double check with your professors that the textbook is absolutely necessary
This one is a doozy. All courses are required to have a “required” textbook even if you never open the textbook once. This can be frustrating when you spend a lot of money on a book that you barely use or never use.
A common piece of advice from upperclassmen is to wait until the first day of class before ordering textbooks unless a professor notes otherwise. Often the first day of class is a syllabus day (a day meant to prepare for the upcoming semester) and they will let you know if the textbook is absolutely necessary.
This can also be important in some majors because you may learn that you need to buy a physical copy of a textbook because you’ll need to continuously refer back to it in future semesters.
Join a Furman Textbook exchange
Oh, the power of social network sites! Often if you’re digging through student created Furman Facebook groups, you’ll stumble upon groups like “Furman Finds Free” or “FU Textbook Exchange” these groups often have a GroupMe and will have a lot of chatter at the end of each semester as people are trying to get rid of their stuff, including textbooks. Many students would rather just give a textbook to someone who will use it rather than trying to sell it, and you’d be surprised how easy it can be to find a book you need for a course.
The prices of textbooks are an unfortunate and unfair barrier that low-income students face at any college and regardless of your socioeconomic status, I hope these tips can help you save your coins when it comes to textbooks!